Here are two background generators, one free and the second premium priced but very good. The free one is SiteOrigin’s Background Generator which has been covered in an overview at theOpenSourcery.com. Before Background Generator, this designer avoided working on backgrounds because so much time was spent in Photoshop or Ink or Xara Designer constantly refining a background image. In contrast, Background Generator [try it live here] is fast, has intuitive style, color and magnification options – and is free.
But Background Generator has 3 missing components. First, it has a closed set of over 200 patterns to design with. Yes, more than enough for many situations, but lacking in the ability to produce a background pattern from a user supplied image. Second the sizing of the pattern in Background Generator is limited to a 2x doubling. Third, there is no way to control the symmetry rules used to generate a pattern – the Background Generator patterns are fixed. So we were in the market for a better background creation tool. What we got with Artlandia Symmetry Mill 2 was a lot more
What Symmetry Mill 2 Does
Enter Artlandia Symmetry Mill 2 program at $69/year for Mac or Windows. This is what Artlandia can do:
And here is a second tiling using a much larger pattern tile:
Notice how the boundaries of the tiling of the pumpkin and squash blend together. This is one of the key features of Symmetry Mill, it is easy to increase the blend between borders elements disguising “hard” border lines. Go here to see 30 more of our tests of Symmetry Mill 2 generated tiling patterns. Yes, they are very interesting examples of the range of background images Symmetry Mill can produce..
How Symmetry Mill Works
Symmetry Mill allows users to control 17 symmetry patterns used to generate a design from a user supplied image.In the example above the Pumpkin Large Motif Motif pattern was produced from the Pumpkin Squash image shown just above it. By dragging the motif pattern over the image, 100’s of patterns are presented to users. This is the basic pattern of Symmetry Mill usage.
The following screenshot shows the 5 panels that are available in Symmetry Mill:
1)Image Window – can be loaded from URL or from users local computer directory;
2)Explorer Window – shows what the current pattern motif and blend settings produce as a pattern;
3)New Filter Options – allows additional 11 finishing effects displayed when used in the Explorer Window;
4)Motif & Blend Panel – allows user to choose from 17 Motif patterns while the new Blend options enable hundreds of new blend settings;
5)Pattern Snapshots – allows user to store all the settings for a pattern of interest.Click on a snapshot and Symmetry Mill restores the Motif & Blend setting as well as the size and position of the pattern cursor for that snapshot pattern – this is very helpful & convenient .
Of the new features in Symmetry Mill 2, the new Blend options are one of the best. This is because blending the tiles into a continuous whole is one of the key features of Symmetry Mill – instead of chunky tile pattterns, the Blend features produce smooth patterns. Now the Explorer Window displays the results of the Motif Pattern plus Blend and Filter settings[it is just like using CSS commands: background-image: url(“smillpattern.jpg”); background-repeat:repeat;]
Also the Explorer Window has a new animation feature that plays out variations in the motif pattern cursor size and position. Explorer animations can be controlled by users as seen in the screenshot of the Explorere Preferences popup [Tools | Explore Preferences from the menu bar]:
Click anywhere in the Explorer window and a red Start button appears click on the start button and Symmetry Mill starts displaying the various tiling patterns derived from your Explorer Preferences settings. Click on the center of the Explorer Window to stop the animation so you can save the in Snapshots the pattern for later use. Here is the Explorer Animation in pause mode:
Keep your mouse in the Explorer Window to stop the animation with a click. Notice a red History line appears and users can move the red dot back to reveal previous patterns dispayed. Click the red “X” at the start of the History line to clear away the stored snapshots. An effective alternative to the Explorere animation is to drag the motif pattern cursor in the Image Window. As you drag the pattern cursor in the Image Window the resulting pattern changes in the Explorer Window.
Another new feature in Symmetry Mill 2 is the new Filter panel. The Filters allows users to apply various special effects like on Instagram and other popular Image manipulation apps as seen in this screenshot:Now being a proficient photo finisher, I tended to ignore this feature at first. But the more I worked with Symmetry Mill I found the filters to be helpful for medium and small size tiles. The Blend settings tended to introduce striking border ideas and the filters allowed emphasizing or balancing out those Blend looks.
The last key detail with Symmetry Mill is how to export and share the resulting tiles and patterns produced.This is a simple operation. You can use the Snapshots of the tiles you have chosen to restore a tile and pattern for export. Use the File | Export command or the Export icon on the left side of the iconbar:
As you can see in the screenshot users can export just the tile for immediate use in a background-image url(filename.jpg) statement [or otherwise, see below] or a broader pattern export inwhich users get to detrmin the number of tile repeats in row and column numbers. In addition, users may choose to share their images on the Artlandia Server – read the details for what is shared and what rules apply here.
What Symmetry Mill 2 Delivers
For sure Symmetry Mill goes beyond Site origin background genertor. It allows users to create design patterns that can be used not just as website background but also as greeting cards, wallpaper designs, t-shirt stencil – anywhere creative patterns can be used. Even better combined with your favorite photo editor these patterns are creative start points as seen in the slideshow:
Artlandia has a host of vector draw and tools that work with the Adobe Suite of products for creating “taior made” outfit and clothing designs.
Cautions Using Symmetry Mill 2
I had a number of problems loading Symmetry Mill 2 on both Windows and Mac machines. Artlandia support has assured me that the current version of Symmetry Mill 2 should load without incident. However, on downloading and installing, Windows Defender again intercepted the install as seen in the screenshot:I had to choose Run anyway. Also my AVG Firewall also halted the execution of the install program – but then let it pass through. I have not checked for Symmetry Mill 2 on the Mac since the new versions were issued.
A second problem was encountered when trying to run the Manage Snapshots feature of Symmetry Mill. This would be a valuable addon because I find myself generating Snapshots all the time. But the current version is bombing:
It will be interesting to see how quickly Artlandia support fixes this problem.
Beyond Background Images
Originally when doing this review I was looking for a program that could generate background images with more stylings possible than with Site Origins Background generator app. And Symmetry Mill certainly can do that – see the many sample tilings generated during our tests. Symmetry Mill can deliver patterns that can be used for a variety of art design tasks like wallpaper layouts, dress and tshirt images, pillow and sheet designs etc. And Artlandia has additional tools for integration with Vector Drawing tools, Photoshop and Illustrator. So clearly, Artlandia has some big markets to fill. The trick is to identify your best Artlandia Symmetry solution.